Syrian Rebels: We Want Peace With Israel, Real Enemy Is Iran
Jun 28 2017 by Desiree Burns
US and allied intelligence officers had for some time identified several sites where they suspected Assad's government may have been hiding newly made chemical weapons from inspectors, a USA official familiar with the intelligence said.
The U.S. has seen no additional activity to indicate a chemical attack is imminent in Syria since the White House threatened President Bashar Assad with retaliation if any further steps were taken, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Wednesday.
Russia, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's main global backer, denounced the warning and dismissed White House assertions that a strike was being prepared as "unacceptable", raising the tension between Washington and Moscow over the Syrian civil war.
Mattis would not say exactly what the USA saw that gave it concern or confirm whether the only activity they saw was at the Shayrat base.
Trump's approach has been created to "dissuade" Syria from using chemical weapons, Mattis added.
Although the number of people killed in suspected chemical attacks is a small portion of the total dead in Syria's civil war - estimated at close to half a million - footage of victims writhing in agony has caused particular revulsion.
In the days following, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis cautioned that the US was prepared to take further action if Syria repeated such chemical weapons use.
The April attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhun was reported to have killed at least 87 people, including many children, and images of the dead and of suffering victims provoked global outrage.
"The activities are similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack".
The Pentagon chief insists the United States is not taking sides in the Syrian conflict, saying late Monday that USA forces would not fire on targets "unless they are the enemy, unless they are ISIS".
United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley put a finer point on Monday's warning, tweeting that "Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people". A senior Russian lawmaker accused the USA of a "provocation".
The announcement comes amid rising tensions in Syria between the US-led coalition and Russian Federation, which is backing the Syrian government.
Less than an hour after Spicer issued the statement, Trump was back to tweeting about the 2016 campaign, denouncing investigations into potential collusion between Moscow and his campaign aides as a "Witch Hunt!"
The White House offered no details on what prompted the warning.
In April, US President Donald Trump launched an attack on Syria with 59 Tomahawk missiles, which targeted Shayrat Airbase near the city of Homs.
On Monday, Trump had dinner with Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other top officials as he hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the White House.
On Tuesday, deputy White House spokesman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said "all relevant agencies. were involved in the process from the beginning".